Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 5(1970)3(271-275)

[p.271]Reviews 1970

JOSEPH MIZZI: A bibliography of the Order of St. John (1925-1969) in: The Order of St. John in Malta: catalogue of the Thirteenth Council of Europe Art Exhibition, 1970. Valletta, 1970.

This valuable work is meant to bring up to date F. de Hellwald's Bibliographie méthodique de l'Ordre Souverain de St Jean de Jérusalem (Rome, 1885) and E. Rossi's Aggiunta alla Bibliographic méthodique (Rome, 1924). These two bibliographies have been reprinted in one volume (Farnborough, Gregg, 1968). It also takes into account more recent bibliographies: G. Fumagalli's Bibliografia rodia (Florence, 1937), T. Guameschelli and E. Valenziani's Saggio di una bibliografia di Malta e del S.M. Ordine di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme (Archivio Storico di Malta, IX (1938) p. 435-493), and Joseph Galea's two specialised bibliographies: The French occupation of Malta: a study in bibliography (Geneva, 1959) and Bibliography of the Great Siege of Malta, 1565-1965 (Malta, 1965).

In his preface Father Mizzi very modestly says he is "fully conscious of its (the bibliography's) gaps and shortcomings". It is true that, like all other bibliographies, it stops short of perfection, but it remains an impres­sively comprehensive tool, obviously the fruit of many years of painstaking work, for which all scholars specialising in the history of the Order, as well as in Maltese and indeed European history, must be very grateful.

Father Mizzi has stuck in general to the classification adopted by Hellwald and Rossi, but has departed from it in a number of respects. He has omitted the sections on Orders of Chivalry in general (Hellwald's Part one, section I) and on the Knights Templar (Part One, Section II) as well as those items in Hellwald's Part Four which refer to the description and history of Malta before 1530 and after 1798. He has also altered the se­quence of the various sections. For instance, he has quite rightly placed the section on bibliographical works at the beginning, whilst Hellwald had placed it at the end of Part One. Moreover, he has omitted some of Hellwald's subdivisions e.g. the four subdivisions in the section on biogra­phies have now become two, and Hellwald's Parts Two and Three — legislation and liturgy — with their twelve subdivisions are here reduced to two sections: "Constitution, legislation, liturgy and privileges" and "Legal and international status of the Order of St. John and diplomatic relations." On the other hand, he has created a few new subdivisions e.g. "The Order of St. John in Viterbo", "The Order of St. John and the battle of Crete". There are also new sections on some topics e.g. "Cultural, architectural and artistic heritage left by the Order of St. John", "Maltese customs, tra­ditions and folklore with special reference to the Order of St. John", and an appendix on Lorenzo and Giulio Litta.

            The only ill-advised section is that entitled "Varia". The main objection to it is that most of the items in it could easily have been inserted in [p.272] one of the numerous other sections e.g. item 1047 could have gone into the section on the Order in the Holy Land and in Cyprus, 1411 in that on the Great Siege, 1414 in that on the two sieges of Rhodes, 1416 in that on the constitution, legislation etc., and so on. Admittedly some of the items defy classification under any one of Father Mizzi's headings. Examples of these are the items on the Inquisition in Malta e.g. 1408, 1409, though A. Vella's work on this topic (279) had earlier been included in the sec­tion on the Order in Malta. It would have been more useful if there had been a separate section on the Order's relations with the ecclesiastical authorities and with the Inquisitors. Hellwald's sections "Historique ecclésiastique" (Part One, section X) and "Questions contentieuses" (Part Two. sections V, VI) should have been retained.

If, as I hope, Father Mizzi's bibliography is reissued separately, there are a few things that could easily be remedied. Most important of all is the addition of an alphabetical index of authors, the lack of which at present reduces the bibliography's usefulness. In the second place there should not be any variations in the form adopted for an author's name e.g. Father Mizzi himself appears as J. Mizzi in 51-54 and as Giuseppe Mizzi in 55; 1359-1360 are attributed to Joseph Cassar Pullicino, whilst 1361-1362 are attributed to Giuseppe Cassar Pullicino. These may not be of much conse­quence at present, but in fifty years' time scholars might be in doubt whether the items are by the same author. Again, one or two authors are entered under a wrong part of their names. The most striking instance of this is J. Quentin Hughes, entered as "Quentin Hughes, J.", when he should have been entered as "Hughes, J. Quentin", Quentin being one of the author's Christian names.

Rather more awkward to correct are the items which appear to be wrongly classified. In the first place there seems to be some confusion between what is bibliography and what are "sources and documents". The latter heading should comprise editions and transcriptions of source material e.g. items 14, 21 and 33. Works merely or chiefly commenting on or describing archives, documents or printed texts e.g. items 11, 31 and 41, are to be regarded as bibliographical, since bibliography nowadays has a much wider connotation than that of the listing of works. Moreover, a work like Denaro's Maltese numismatics: a bibliography (1424), which has been placed rather oddly with "Varia", should obviously have come under the Bibliography section.

As in all classification systems, some of the sections tend to overlap e.g. "The Order of St. John, Tripoli and the Barbary Coast", "Special  episodes in the history of the Order" and "History of the Navy", or "Biography" and a good number of other sections. Since this overlapping cannot always be helped, all the bibliographer can do is to be consistent [p.273] in the classification of items relating to particular topics. This, Father Mizzi has not always done. Items on the Order's navy and Barbary may be found in both the section on the Order and the Barbary Coast and that on the history of the navy. Similarly, two items in the "Special episodes" section should have been placed in the naval history section. A glance at the biography sections reveals Frangipane's biography of Mattia Preti (806) whilst Mariani's Mattia Preti a Malta (1235) is in the section on "Fortifications, churches [etc.]" I know that Mariani's stress on the artistic output of Preti is greater than Frangipane's, but I am sure that both works are basically of a kind and belong in the same section, whether it be one or the other. Items which could fit into more than one section might be indicated by "see also" references.

In most cases Father Mizzi is careful to list all editions of a work, including translations, though I feel that brief notes stating that e.g. 12 and 13 are French and English versions respectively of the same work, would have been useful. In some cases I noticed he has, however, omitted other editions. The 1968 paperback edition of Luke's Malta: an account and an appreciation has been listed but not the first edition, London 1949, and the second hardback edition, London 1960. Again, he has listed the first edition (Malta, 1863) of G.A. Vassallo's Il-Ġifen Tork (1396) but not the second edition, by G. Aquilina (Malta, 1949).

Father Mizzi's occasional references to other bibliographical tools e.g. his note on Caoursin after item 202, are very useful. Had it not appeared after Mizzi's completion of his bibliography in July 1969, I feel sure he would have included a reference to Arthur Freeman's bibliographical note published in December 1969 (The Library, 5th series, vol. XXIV, no. 4, p. 333-336) on Editions of Fontanus, De Bello Rhodio which clears up some errors in Hellwald and Rossi, and lists some editions or translations not previously listed e.g. a French adaptation of Fontanus in F. de Belle-forest's Harengues militaires (Paris, 1572-3). The date of the first edition of Fontanus' work is 1524, not 1523, as reported (through an unfortunate misprint, I understand) by Father Mizzi.

When one considers the length of the period covered by this biblio­graphy and the abundance of the relevant literature published in this period or omitted by previous bibliographies, one cannot but be impressed with how little, relatively, seems to have escaped him. On the other hand, omissions were almost inevitable, for the literature on the Order is extremely scattered and some items, published in limited editions or by obscure presses, tend to be difficult to trace. I have no intention of listing all the omissions which struck me, but I fee' I ought to point out some of the more important and interesting ones.

From the section on bibliography two works of some importance [p.274] have been omitted: Oliver L. Kapsner's Catalog of the Foster Steams Collection on the S.M.O. of St. John of Jerusalem (Washington, 1955), and the Maltese Association of the S.M.O. of St. John's Valletta 1566-1966; a commemorative exhibition. (Catalogue) (Valletta, 1966), a handy little work.

An even more important omission is of a much earlier work which, notwithstanding its unique value, escaped the attention even of Hellwald: J.N. Pardessus' Collection de lois maritimes antérieures au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1828-45; reprinted Torino, 1968) which contains full texts of the Order's main maritime legislation, and introductions to them.

Father Mizzi lists two volumes, the sixth and the eighth of Guglielmotti's Storia della marina pontificia but not the third and fourth, originally published as La guerra dei pirati e la marina pontificia dal 1500 ad 1560 (Florence, 1876) Also missing are the several eighteenth-century Portu­guese pamphlets describing naval exploits of the Order, most of which have also escaped Hellwald and subsequent bibliographies, of which there is a good collection in the Royal University of Malta Library.

There are more omissions in the section on "The Order of St. John in literature", most surprising of which is R. Cavaliero's Olympic and the angel (London, 1958) and S. Hockaby's Grand Master (London, 1939) Other omissions worthy of mention are Carlo Trionfi's Il Segno degli eroi (Milano, 1933) and Cordaro Clarenza's La Valette (Malta, 1850).

There is an inclusion, as against the omissions, which might be objected to: S. Rossiter's Malta (1252), a guide-book. If this was included, other important guide-books e.g. Kinimonth's, now in its second edition, should not have been omitted. It seems that with regard to this class of works Father Mizzi did not decide on a clearcut policy.

Finally I should like to amend the entry for item 93 which reads:

"E.H.T. The Knights of St. John: with the Battle of Lepanto and the Siege of Vienna. London, S.d. p.x 282". According to Halkett and Laing's Dictionary of anonymous and pseudonymous English literature, the author of the work is Augusta Theodosia Drane, E.H.T. (i.e. E. Healy Thomson) being the author solely of the preface. The date attributed to the work by Halkett and Laing is 1858.

All the foregoing should not give the impression that Father Mizzi's bibliography is anything but the indispensable work that it is. Apart from being comprehensive, it is in all but a few cases extremely accurate, much more so than previous bibliographies. It is, however, my hope that if this bibliography should be published separately — as it should — some revisions will be made in the light of the remarks made in this review.